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Pudendalocks and the Three Bares

Pudendalocks and the Three Bares

Once upon a time, it was, and a very long time ago,
or possibly in will be in the future, it’s very hard to know,
There was a girl called Pudenda – (I think her parents were caned,
They may have not realised the full meaning when she was named)
But I digress, this tale is not one about her family,
But more about the way she came have a natural affinity
With her body and her name and that which grew upon her,
I talk of course of the locks that develop around a vagina.
I skip ahead again, I really must get my head and words together,
To tell the tale, properly, of Pudenda’s developed nether.

Pudenda grew up happy, noisy, loud and ran carefree,
She was not restricted in her life’s full rich possibility.
She’d climb up trees and wear high heels, although not at the same time,
At least not after the first attempt to make a higher climb
In which her heel got caught in a really gnarly thickened branch,
And she fell and it took a while to get the blood to stanch…
But anyway the point of this is that her life was an open book,
She believed and grew up knowing she could do anything, just look
At the world around her and decide one day eventually,
What it is that she really wanted to do and may want to be.

Slowly as she grew though she came to realise that
Not everyone held the view of freedom that she had.
She looked around and saw the ideals that the world seemed to push,
On hair and face and body and clothes and even her new-grown bush.
Hard to believe, in fact she could barely credit the truth.
Why would the world care what developed as she grew out of youth?
Could it really be so important what look she may sport down there?
Whether hairy, groomed, shaved into patterns, or completely bare?
She’d barely hit puberty when it seemed the world crashed in,
And suddenly she had all these rules to follow in order to fit in.

At school she heard the teasing and the laughter of the girls
In the changing rooms during gym lessons, pointing at the curls
Of the newly pubescent developing growth of the young body
Although as all of them were experiencing the same puberty
It seemed to Pudenda that they were only laughing at themself
And it must be nervous fear of being left somehow on the shelf
Of not conforming and not attracting their future partner for life
And of attaining that idealised goal of someone’s most-loved wife.
Pudenda’s upbringing had taught her that her life would be full of choice,
But now the choices seemed limited by an outside pressuring voice.

As Pudenda grew a bit older into her burgeoning sexuality
Understanding her attractions and with whom she wanted to be
She saw how the culture in which she and her peers existed
Had a very narrow view of the way in which women were depicted
More than that and more than the restrictions she had realised
Was that her own vagina had been specifically idealised.
Her labia apparently had a correct width and length it should be
And as for her pudenda-locks, it seemed less was more to see!
It meant that as soon as puberty had hit and her bush had grown,
In order to be attractive her bush had to be shorn, shaved and mown.

Her name had been an embarrassment but now she took it as a sign
That she would be a voice in the wilderness to shout “what’s mine is mine!”
And whether Brazilian, Hollywood, French, the traditional Three Bares,
She did not see any reason to conform, to be told how to style her hairs.
Mainstream porn, the major source of a young boys sex education,
Meant that normality for them was to see all bared to the nation,
And when she said bared, she meant bared quite literally,
Naked pre-pubescent pubic mound, completely hair-free.
Choice is good, choice is fine and she thought informed choice the best.
But how can such a choice be made without facts? She must protest!

So many different terms she found for what existed down below,
Vafro and jewfro two terms discovered; there would be more to know.
But all describe an area that is as varied as each person is in life.
So why is it necessary to conform to one ideal, to avoid perceived strife?
As Pudenda had relationships and became more sexually active,
She realised that no-one really cared about hairiness, she was still attractive.
The pressure and the torture and the pain she had endured
Was pointless and wasted and yet still went on as girls matured.
It angered her to know that in this and in all things physical
Young girls were pushed and oppressed through the body critical.

Pudenda then embraced her name and it became her raison d’etre
To shout out loud and everywhere, to campaign to make things better.
She became Pudendalocks and made it her life to fight the Three Bares.
To enable all the women and girls she knew to own what was theirs.
To strike at the heart of raunch culture and its narrow confines.
To free the minds of everyone from what society defines
As the way a woman could and should and would always be.
As the gender boundaries blur people would be proud to say “I’m me!”
Not boxed in or suppressed or confined or restricted in choice.
Pudendalocks would be her name. Freedom would be her voice.

So that’s the story of Pudendalocks and how she grew into her name.
The way in which she developed into the fighter she became.
Like all fairy stories it would end in a happily ever after.
But it will only end that way if you join in her thereafter.
Pudendalocks has a voice and she fights for freedom from oppression,
I intend to help her and all others in the fight against suppression.
Although as my readers you will know happily ever after isn’t real,
But the fight goes on and is the thing, to fight with grit and zeal.
Fairy tales and nursery rhymes aren’t real, we know that obviously.
But discrimination is, so let’s join with Pudendalocks, for equality!

© Tina Price-Johnson
28.09.2014

This poem got a very good reaction particularly from young (i.e. 18-21) women in the audience who approached me after I performed it to discuss what it said and how they felt, and to ask what a pudenda* was  … really, we do need to have a better, more informative and detailed discussion about our bodies in which no gender is excluded, and include informed consent in that discussion!

Please read, please share, please let me know what you think!

*the exterior area of a person’s genitals, most often applied to women in the area in which hair grows – let’s face it that could be anywhere from halfway down the inner thighs to the navel, and all or no areas in between.  We aren’t all identical!

The Great British Eccentric

The Great British Eccentric

When I grow up, I want to be just like them.

Just like a great British eccentric.

I will be wizened and gnarly, with a beard that

No woman should be able to grow.

I will curl it and wear ribbons.

And pretend I am a musketeer.

Brandishing my walking stick at all my foes,

Like Errol Flynn, but with bigger balls,

And less sexually transmitted diseases.

 

I will wear all my clothes, all at once,

In no particular order.

I will be hugely, massively, squishably fat.

And wear skin-tight leggings,

And have people talk in scandalised fashion,

About the wobbling of my tremendous thighs,

And my chins, and jiggle of my no longer sexy bosom.

And not care in the slightest.

 

I will clash in a glorious riot of colour,

Of pattern and of style.

If I am not large, I shall go the opposite way,

And be so skinny a gust of wind would blow me over,

Or at least that’s what I will say.

And I will wear voluminous skirts that drown me,

And threaten to trip me over, but I won’t fall.

Because I will be held up by bits of string,

And sticky tape and card and paper that I carry around.

Just in case I might need them.

 

I will challenge complete strangers to races,

On my walking stick, and if they agree,

I will win every time.  Because I will cheat.

Because I am old, and cheeky, and will get away with it.

I will talk to strangers, just like my parents said I shouldn’t.

I will discuss my health in long, vivid description.

Sparing no details, from the hairs in my ears,

To the peculiar discharges I never expected,

From my long-descended vagina.

 

I will write, obsessively, about all that I see,

On the biros I steal from Argos and betting shops.

I will make a bet on the wrong horse.

I will intend to get it wrong, just because.

I don’t need reasons any more for anything.

I am old, I am invisible, I am free from you.

Free from expectation.  Free from derivation.

Free from giving a shit!

 

I will flirt outrageously with anyone and everyone.

Gender be damned, I will twinkle and glow.

I will be adorable and in turn be adored.

Or feared by those who are still in their box.

Too afraid to step outside in technicolour.

Monochrome grey their world of lines,

And rules and guidance and littleness.

I am outside now, outside the box, outside

The rules, outside the society I was suppressed in.

I will be the me I want to be, finally.

 

I will challenge strangers to debate or conversation,

If I see a girl on a walking stick, I will run,

I will hobble and twist and grate to her,

And I will tell her my life so she can know,

That she can be all that she wants to be.

That she can reach for the stars and shine.

That she can be just like me if she wants to.

Like me and my scream of joy at life.

Like me, the great British eccentric.

 

© Tina Price-Johnson 6.1.14

 

Inspired by an old lady who challenged me to a walking stick race as I passed her in my local shopping mall; we then had the most hilarious of chats.  She was in her 80s, clearly and proudly non-conforming and totally free in herself.  I want to be her, so I’m practicing from now on!

Beautiful

Beautiful

She moves, she undulates.

Each side-swaying step a glory in ripples.

Waves moving up, down, out.

Her skin barely containing her body as it strains.

Every shift in her weight marked out

By the beauty of her.

 

Her step is heavy, heavy as she seems.

But her step is light, light as the sun,

Gleaming from her skin in reflection.

Basking on her.  Over her.

Joyful to be able to become,

A part of her.

 

She takes up space, yet not enough.

Power contained, barely.

Muscles straining within.

We are drawn into her orbit, and

Never want to leave.

She is unaware.

She is beautiful.

 

Nearby, another steps out into sun.

Tight, drawn in, still in her skin.

As she makes her way through the crowd

She weaves between people.

Straight, intent.

Sparing and strong.

 

Skin sinewy layered over bone,

Her structure plain to see.

The form of body over bone,

Of humanity.

Life living and loved.

She too, is beautiful.

 

The older woman, walking,

Strength through use.

Strength through wisdom.

The sun finds its way to shadow,

Reflecting the wrinkles earned.

Her body a map of her life.

 

Each fold of skin is a mark.

A medal, a proud indication

Of her long, lived, life.

Every step taken, mistake or not.

Her beauty is proudly displayed.

Her beauty suffuses.

 

The last is slow, shuffling, gait awkward.

Held up and on by her stick.

Movement twisted.

Expression concentrating.

Pain present.

But ignored, beaten.

Control hard-won.

 

Her body is an everyday battle,

Which she has learned to fight,

With grace and with favour.

Reading the minutest hint

That she must take care.

She is beauty.

 

All the myriad variation

That exists in humanity.

That proclaims womanhood.

Is strength and love.

Is anger and hurt.

Is new birth and final death.

 

No one can be said to represent all,

And no one person is excluded.

All surface is temporary.

All is changing, inconstant.

All have power and pain,

and all I see are beautiful.

 

© Tina Price-Johnson 9th July 2014

 

I’m posting this as I was reminded of it and how much a friend loved it last weekend, whilst at the Matchwomen’s Festival 2016.  I hope you like it, I hope you share it.  Some positivity in this world gone strange and terrifying.

Check Your Privilege!

If you don't have to think-privilege

I’m in a slight state of shock to find myself writing this.  That shock is in itself is an example of my own privilege.  I live, breathe and immerse myself in a life of combating prejudice where and when I am able to, and in striving to ensure I am open to being challenged on my own privileges (such as the fact I am white, university-educated and live in a relatively wealthy country, although am not myself wealthy or even middling).

So I’m used to challenging myself, and the shock I feel at finding myself explaining privilege again is a result of the fact I have been questioning for so long and challenged by people who take the time to call me out when my privilege is showing.  I am discriminated against, being disabled, experiencing mental health issues, and being a female and not conforming to the ideal of femininity, but my privileges are more than my intersected oppressions in the society in which I live.

It is this Facebook status message specifically which has inspired my blog:

Tom Bradbury

20 June at 12:10 · 

The most perfect thing I have ever seen just happened on the replacement train bus service between Newport and Cwmbran:

White man sat in front of a mother and her son. Mother was wearing a niqab. After about 5 minutes of the mother talking to her son in another language the man, for whatever reason, feels the need to tell the woman “When you’re in the UK you should really be speaking English.”

At which point, an old woman in front of him turns around and says, “She’s in Wales. And she’s speaking Welsh.”

Perfect.

Quite a short and simple status message, telling the tale of a story of racism/Islamaphobia experienced by many people.  I also question that the white man would have approached a male talking to his son in this way; gender may also have played its part.  I have no problem believing this story may be true.

Apparently a lot of people do.  Almost immediately the veracity of the story was questioned.  When I posted it, I was demanded to prove it was true, and when I challenged said questioners to prove it wasn’t true, was told that as I posted it I had to prove it.

Guess what colour and gender the people questioning this were?  Go on, I’ll wait…

Yes, you are right, they are white and predominantly male.  In fact, all of those questioning this story that I have been able to discover in my research have been white.  One objection was concerning the fact a rail replacement service had not been operating ‘that day’ (although the status message does not specifically name a day).  This was quickly refuted with a very brief basic google search.

Then I stopped in my endeavours.  Why was I doing this research?  What the hell was I doing trying to ‘prove’ a racist incident had occurred?  Why were those challenging the veracity so determined to demand proof that the specific incident had occurred?  Many cited a similar tale from the United States in which a woman with her child was confronted by a man telling her to stop speaking ‘Mexican’ because she was in the USA and should speak English, and it turned out she was speaking Navajo.

So what the challenges are basically saying is that the two stories are so similar that they could not possibly have both happened.

Wow.  Privilege much?

That is NOT how racism works (or any other form of prejudice, for that matter).  Racism is systemic (which is why the privilege race cannot be systemically racist – that’s another blog) and is built up from myriad incidents and experiences.  The fact that it happened twice in similar cultures (USA, United Kingdom) is in fact more proof of systemic racism and the effects it has on people.  I’m not surprised that many similar stories can be found.  There are many similar stories of incidents of sexism, racism, ableism, homophobia, islamophobia, transphobia – you name it.

I repeat, that is how discrimination and prejudice works!

Demanding ‘proof’ of incidents of discrimination instead of doing your own research if you question it is also privilege – you are assuming an incident didn’t happen because it does not tally with your own experience.

Step out of your privilege for just one second and consider what it is you are actually saying.  You are denying an experience of oppression.  You are silencing a voice fighting against discrimination.  You are perpetuating the systems of privilege and oppression by which you benefit.

I know it’s hard to be confronted by your own privilege, but you are not responsible for having that privilege.  You are responsible for what you do with it.  That’s what I strive (and fail and strive again) to do.  No-one is perfect.  But really, is it so hard to step back and check oneself, if it means discrimination and oppression are one step further forward in being eliminated?

If your first instinct is to demand irrefutable proof an incident of discrimination actually happened rather than to find irrefutable proof that it didn’t happen, you are part of the problem.  That’s your privilege.  Check it.

Check your privilege

Thank you, University of San Francisco, for providing a basic tool for use in checking.

Resignation

As an Alumni of Goldsmiths College and follower/supporter of the Centre for Feminist Research based at the college, I am extremely disappointed that Professor Ahmed felt she had no pathway but to resign. Sexual harassment is a plague in society and Professor Ahmed was a beacon in the field of combating this scourge. The response from Goldsmiths, whilst I am assuming is legally bound up in red tape (and can be found on Linked In), is deeply unsatisfactory. I am now questioning my position in supporting the Centre, and should appreciate a statement from them dealing with this issue and with Professor Ahmed’s full statement on her blog, full statement to which I link in this post. Goldsmiths has always been at the forefront of intersectional feminism and sociological research. Has it truly become nothing more than a mouthpiece for the status quo? I sincerely hope not.

feministkilljoys

Colleagues and killjoys,

It is with sadness that I announce that I have resigned from my post at Goldsmiths. It is not the time to give a full account of how I came to this decision. In a previous post, I described some of the work we have been doing on sexual harassment within universities. Let me just say that I have resigned in protest against the failure to address the problem of sexual harassment. I have resigned because the costs of doing this work have been too high.

This decision was difficult. The Centre for Feminist Research has been a lifeline and a shelter. We have together created a space within the institution that has been a space to breathe. It has been a space that is not populated by the same old bodies.

I want to thank in particular all the students I have been lucky enough to work with especially those…

View original post 102 more words

Am I a Good Ally?

Am I a “Good Ally”?  What does this even mean; how does one determine the value of one’s ally-ship? Should it even be a consideration?

I have many privileges afforded to me in my UK-based lifestyle.  I am not poor (although the bar for the definition of poor seems to be constantly lowering); I am white; I am educated; I present as able-bodied about half of my time; I am cisgender; I am heterosexual, and apparently look like I am.  I appear to conform in many ways.

I have my intersecting experiences of discrimination; I am female and I am disabled, and live with clinical depression.  Within those identities are further experiences of discrimination, for my lack of societal conforming good looks such as being fat and having a ‘gifted-size’ nose.  I have experienced much discrimination but it can also never be denied that I have experienced much privilege.  I am guessing I will continue to experience both.

Being an ally to those who experience discrimination that I benefit from due to my privilege is something I feel incredibly strongly about.  It is fraught with many considerations and fears.  Am I speaking over those who should be at the forefront of the fight? Is my white woman shouting silencing my sisters of BAME identity ?  I see it with the male ally to feminism being lauded for the slightest act of discovery when women have been screaming the exact thing for many years, apparently into a void.  I know my white, educated voice is more likely to be heard and respected than a person who has not got my education or whiteness.  That’s the very nature of the privilege I am afforded.

Guilt goes along with that privilege, and it should.  Not the guilt of the creator of the privilege, but of the person benefitting.  I recognise that I am not responsible for the creation of the privilege but I very much am responsible for the ending of it.  That is the fundamental definition of myself as an ally.

So far, so wordy.  It’s all for nothing without action.  My disabilities have limited my activism more and more to online and in writing, although I will still be at a rally if I can.  Visibility is important, more so than any other form of activity, so I will carry a placard with pictures of those who can’t make it on there; a show of although I am one, be aware that I carry many others with me.

I will use my privilege to fight that same privilege.  But I will only do so if I am not speaking over those with experience.  If I can support a sister of BAME identity I will do so and it must be at the expense of my own voice being heard.  I will be heard if there is the space given to me to do so.  That is my rule.

I have become aware that this rule may be problematic.  It may stop me from speaking at all.  As a woman, I am raised to be nurturing, to put others ahead, to say “no, you first” and indicate forward with bowed head to let others pass.  I need to be braver as an ally.

I need to stop worrying about staying silent and speak forth.  If I don’t, then my silence is complicit in perpetuating the prejudice.  It’s okay to be wrong, to make mistakes.  It’s okay to be called out because without being called out you cannot know what you are doing, what I am doing, to make the situation worse.  Being called out is a gift not an embarrassing attack.  The language used to call out is that of a person or people long oppressed and if I cannot understand the anger, pain and frustration behind it then I think I am missing the point.

As one woman said, “Excuse us if we don’t always smile politely after you stomp on us.”  Damn right.  We should thank you for taking the time.  If anyone starts any sentence in response to a point made with “but not all…” then Ally101, they are missing the point and not being an ally.

No advancement in social history has ever been made without acts of violence.  Think about it – the suffragettes in the UK both enacted property and personal violence, and were on the receiving end of truly vile state sanctioned violence.  Likewise the ending of the slave trade in the United States, the 1960s Civil Rights movement, the Stonewall Riots and so on.  The violence is not one way; the discriminated-against have been on the receiving end for so very long that it truly is a war.  I don’t want that to happen but I damn well understand how it does, and to dismiss it with racist stereotypes like the ‘angry black woman’, or the criminalised black male, or to emasculate gay men as ‘feminine’ thereby inviting society’s approbation exclusively by conforming to the masculine ideal of strength and physical  dominance, is dismissing and provocative.

Project for a W.E.L.L. online event - taken in Greenwich 5.6.12

I know which side I will be on and it won’t be the one whose privilege I share.  That is what I will do.  That is my Ally Pledge.

Am I a good ally?  I have absolutely no idea.  But I want to be and I work to be.  That’s all any of us can do.  That’s all that ALL of us should do.

 

Thank you to the strong and open women who allow me to reap the benefit of their knowledge for the inspiration for this.  If they see this, they’ll know who they are

Self-Righteous Silencing OR The Kuenssberg Conflation

38 Degrees, a very popular and populist independent campaigning group, recently took down a petition objecting to the political bias of journalist Laura Kuenssberg because of sexist and misogynistic comments made by very few commenters on social media.  Their reasons for making such a decision can be found here.

Laura Kuennsberg

The first female Political Editor to be appointed to BBC News, Laura Kuenssberg.

It had been claimed that 38 Degrees themselves supported sexism by allowing the petition to continue although research showed that of all the tens of thousands of signatures to the petition only one or two misogynistic comments could be found as evidenced by the google cache of comments as at 11th May 2016 at 9.29 pm GMT.

This is silencing of the worst type.  It takes a very serious issue such as sexism and misogyny experienced by women in the media spotlight and uses it to suppress any dissenting opinion and political viewpoint.

Laura Kuenssberg has a track record of proven bias towards the right wing parties most particularly evidenced in the recent elections across the United Kingdom along with her colleagues.  This petition was intended to give voice to those objecting to such bias and was addressed to Ms Kuenssberg as she is the Political Editor of BBC News at the BBC and fronts Newsnight, the flagship BBC political broadcast.  It was suppressed, based on false and/or misleading accusations.

Sexism, misogyny, indeed any form of discriminatory language, is faced by those who are female/BAME/transgender/disabled/poor/working class/non-heterosexual all the time.  It is nothing new, and indeed the twitterati have been discussing misogyny and violent language directed at feminists for a very long time (since the inception of Twitter, basically). So why was this petition taken down, and why was it this petition and only this petition that was attacked?

I strongly believe it was to silence those who object to the clear bias of Ms Kuenssberg and the BBC’s political department.  It’s no coincidence that this happened right before the BBC Charter is up for debate and renewal, and it is a relief to read today that the government will not have the draconian powers it wished to have. Yet.  But this is not a blog about the BBC.

By throwing accusations of sexism and misogyny at the petition, however truthful, the point of the petition was lost and the debate was gas-lighted into self-righteous congratulation at ‘supporting’ a female who was being abused.  Where is the support for all those women who are abused elsewhere?  How convenient for those who wanted the petition gone to have an opportunity of proving themselves as non-sexist in suppressing the voice, ignoring the fact the petition itself was not sexist at all.

If we allow this to continue, then anyone who does not like what a person is saying, or a group is doing, or a campaign point of view, can get a group together and write some reprehensible discriminatory commentary on social media, and hey presto! All opposition is suppressed and silenced and it is for ‘good reasons’.  Somebody is indeed ‘thinking of the children’.

I am a feminist.  A rampant feminist, as I have been called in the past and embrace as a compliment.  I oppose sexism and misogyny in every form.  I am an intersectional feminist; I strongly believe equality of opportunity cannot exist if any form of discrimination still exists.  It is absolutely right to object to the sexism and misogyny which is addressed to anyone, whatever their political leanings and however reprehensible one might find their personal activity.

It is absolutely unacceptable to suppress and silence using unrelated anti-discrimination rhetoric as the reason.

We saw the same thing recently with the anti-semitism scandals in the Labour Party being broadcast far and wide (background and more in-depth discussion of this here) whilst the racism in the Tory Party being barely reported upon or discussed (link is to an old story, as an example).

Rightly, racism, anti-semitism and islamophobia must be confronted and has no place in modern politics.  Wrongly, the fight is not being applied equally and is being used to silence opposition and suppress dissention on entirely unrelated topics.

Self-righteous silencing makes me feel sick to my core.  It suppresses dissent.  It perpetuates the very discrimination it uses to silence.  There is very definitely sexism and misogyny being directed towards Ms Kuenssberg, and that is wrong.  That as the first Editor of BBC Newsnight to be female it was to be expected she would face such sexism is both depressing and wrong.  That does not mean she is not biased in her reporting, nor that the BBC has been proven to be biased towards the right wing parties in their political broadcasts and news coverage.  The two topics are not mutually exclusive.

Up to HERE I am (indicates point well above the International Space Station)

I’ve had it up to HERE! (indicates point above the International Space Station).

If the support for those suffering discrimination was honestly intended and truly felt, it would be applied across the board regardless of those who are suffering at the hands of such discrimination.  That it is not is very telling.  It is a politics of black-and-white.  Of no grey areas.  Of conflation of ideologies.  There is sexism throughout society, just as there is racism and all other forms of discrimination.  To use the fight against such discrimination to suppress voices of dissent is insupportable.

I for one have had more than enough of the self-righteous silencing.

I expect you have too.

 

Tattoo

Beat.

I am an artwork. I am a story.  My pages are turning, filling, spidery writing scrawling the beats of my life.  I am not finished.  I will never be finished.

Beat.

I am the beat of my heart.  My body is the outward expression of my inward journey.  Each tattoo strikes with a rhythm of pain overcome and autonomy regained.  Strength ever growing and determination building. Beat, and I will overcome.  Beat, and I will win.

Beat.

Betrayed, used, lied to.  Physical compatibility belied emotional vulnerability.  I was told I must separate, move away from friends.  We were fine together, but hate was all I would get from ‘outside’.

Beat.

I gave my love and he gave his hate, the hate of his friends he said, but the truth was his insecurity.  I could be with him.  Only him.

Beat.Upper right shoulder blade tattoo

I left him. I took back my power, and inked my mark of separation.  Chosen image to divide from his potential destruction.  Tattoo’d to reclaim my body.  I wear a different body to that which he tried to destroy.

Beat.

Self-inflicted hate of my shape, formed and incepted by those of you who told me I was wrong, defiled by my self-worth. My largesse was gross heresy to the ideal I should be wearing.

Beat.stomach tattoo

I took my self-loathing and drew on it.  My design, a decoration worthy of me.  Needle stabbing a permanent tribute to my value.  I will give invitation-only viewings of the glory of my art, if I judge you worthy of access.

Beat.

Confident, phoenix arisen.  New design, a simple aesthetic in reflection of my passions.  A distillation of culture, of history, of curve and of shape, coalescing in perfection on the slope of my back.

lower back tattoo

Beat.

I am not your object to mould into submissive perfection.  I am my canvas to adorn as I please. Make your assumptions as I make my body my own and my soul dance all over my skin.

Beat.

Complementary Yes, Alternative No! – Cancer Treatment

cancer cells

Hull York Medical School image of Cancer Cells. Pretty image, nasty cells.

I am a member of a couple of CLL (Chronic Lymphocytic Leukaemia) support groups on Facebook.  I have many friends who are trained in and offer a range of alternative therapy treatments.  I myself have undertaken a course in homeopathy and am a qualified trained reflexologist (with ITEC, although this has lapsed due to physical health issues; I was unable to practice).  I understand and support holistic treatments with as wide a range as is possible and proven efficacious (whether placebo or not, placebo can work if the patient believes it will).

One thing I will not put up with and will object to strongly is when complementary therapy is offered as alternative, and conventional medicinal cancer treatments are advised to be ineffective (at best), or to be tools of a profit-driven pharma giant intent on perpetuating damaging health procedures which will kill or make the condition worse (at worst).

This is dangerous.  This kills, and has done.* Let me be clear, I am not talking about prevention, but treatment.  Living a healthy lifestyle is a good idea, and nutrition, exercise, general maintenance etc. is a positive step.  Furthermore, as long as complementary medicines are not contraindicated by scientifically/empirically proven conventional practice, I see no harm.  By contraindicated, I mean that some complementary treatments directly affect the efficiency of medication that may be prescribed by doctors/oncologists – for example St. John’s Wort is commonly used to treat depression (and has a proven positive effect, although why is still debated) but will reduce the effectiveness of other forms of medication (in my case, my epilepsy medication at the moment but also some cancer treatments which I will need in the future).

One of the problems of a privatised healthcare system is that it, like any system which has a profit motive at its core, will be treated suspiciously by those who are reliant on its services.  The UK is lucky in that at the moment it has the NHS, which provides some protection against a purely profit-driven motivation in healthcare.  Capitalism is inherently riven with abuse; we see that in the garment industry with sweat shops, in the sex industry with trafficking, rape and abuse (still called sex work/prostitution by the media which enables abuse to continue, in my opinion), even with the poor and vulnerable in society forced into low-paid work and substandard housing for the sake of more money in the landlord and/or shareholder’s pockets.

Complementary medicinal practice is also profit-driven, a fact which seems to be forgotten.  Just as with conventional medicine, this means it is also open to abuse but unlike conventional medicine, there is no registering body or oversight practice which protects those seeking complementary treatments.  Especially where there is private/insurance-led healthcare systems, this is open to the con artist seeking to profit from the very real fears of patients and those who care for them, and those who fear diagnosis.

I have read a great many ‘alternative medicine’ posts and watched many videos since my diagnosis 2 years ago.  What I find with almost all of them is a lack of empirical evidence or source data from which they are drawing their conclusions.  There is a lot of correlation proves causation, and poor pseudo-science written in very convincing language.  I have research training to degree level; I am able to discern from the language used and from my own research what is worth following up and what is merely quackery (as I saw one video call conventional medicine, at the same time as state that is what conventional medicine calls ‘alternative medicinal practice’).  The citing of historical methods of treatment as being seen at some time as ‘alternative’ is taken to mean current alternative treatments will be accepted as being as effective as already proven treatments available in conventional medicine.  This may be true but it is not proven at the current time, despite scientific testing.  To state this is to play on the hopes and fears of people who have a disease which if not treated at all WILL kill them.  I find this reprehensible fear-mongering.**

There is talk of ‘sources’ and even of murder of alternative therapist providers by ‘big pharma’.** None of which is proven, but when those of us who are living with a cancer diagnosis read this, we are scared.  Trust is very important between a patient and a care provider.  These articles are deliberately vague but give enough data to be read as very believable.  They destroy trust and create more fear.  They are very much about ‘alternative’ therapies at the expense of conventional treatment, but not through informed decision-making.

Access to the internet and social media posts has exacerbated this situation.  Constant posts even in online support groups can give false hope.  The line between conventional and complementary therapies and the seeming inability for conventional medicine to work with complementary therapies doesn’t help.  Far more complementary therapists are willing to work with conventional practice than the other way round, and this leaves the patient in a frightening, confusing position.  Both need to work together, not pull apart.

Treatment is about the whole body.  Complementary therapies are as much about the mind as the body and that is vital in creating an optimum environment in which one can rest, recover, and revitalise.  Alternative therapies are about profit as much as they say conventional therapies are.  But worse, much worse, is that they kill.  All we can do is raise the point though.  There is nothing we can do to stop this, and people will die as a result.

It’s immoral, unethical and certainly not an alternative, unless we mean an alternative to life.  Don’t take my word for it; I admit I have a bias.  I am very much an empiricist; I rely on data, factual information, the scientific method and proven effectiveness.***  I am not a faith-based person, that is not my character.  What I ask is that you do your research, go deeper than the links I have provided, apply critical thinking and seek others to help you.  Research source information, check out the background of websites you utilise – who are they and what is their motive?

It’s your life.  It’s your loved one’s life.  Make it a good one.

cancer bitch

Seriously, cancer, you can just do one. Now. Go on, go. Off you toddle…

*http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/mar/03/what-do-doctors-say-to-alternative-therapists-when-a-patient-dies-nothing-we-never-talk

*http://whatstheharm.net/whatisthis.html

**http://healthimpactnews.com/2015/is-the-u-s-medical-mafia-murdering-alternative-health-doctors-who-have-real-cures-not-approved-by-the-fda/

** http://www.thenewsminute.com/article/actor-jishnu-leaves-message-death-alternate-therapy-no-substitute-cancer-treatment-40876

***http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/cancers-in-general/treatment/complementary-alternative/about/

***http://www.canceractive.com/cancer-active-page-link.aspx?n=2656

***http://www.macmillan.org.uk/information-and-support/coping/complementary-therapies

 

love, not anger; love, not hate

What is there to say?  On the morning of the attack, so many go about their daily routine.  Cogs in the engine of a larger machine which itself powers more parts of more engines which fit together with some pushing, some shoving, some square parts in round holes.

We don’t speak the same language, all of us, but we do feel the same emotions; we fear, we love, we panic, we hate, we despise, we care, we comment, we stay silent.  We are overwhelmed.

Some of us need to find reasons so strongly we point to the most obvious culprits, without proof, without understanding, but with a fear and desperation to find the catalyst so that we can avoid the same thing happen to us.  So we can stay away from the threat, send those who might to other places so we and our loved ones are safe.

Some of us fear the reaction more than the action. We see the hate for people who do not resemble us.  The easy targets, little realising that this is how those creators of fear, the terrorists, want us to view those who are not us.  We see exiles in our own community, pushed away, segregated by the minority of racists who are so loud, so vicious with their words and actions, segregation becomes a chosen state out of fear.

Fear begets extreme action begets terror; from the racist and from the terrorist, although who can say which is which.

Stronger measures, more checkpoints, but does that create a safer place or a more fearful people? No easy answers, just aching hearts and a desperation that the world is getting smaller but the borders are building higher walls and people are locked into mindsets which become cemented and brittle.  Broken and burned by the anger they feel and perceive.  The hate we are shown again and again and again in our media tells us we are right to fear the ‘other’.  We are right to mistrust, misled into complicity.

Love.  I cannot hate because that is a downward spiral which leads to a nation, a world of anger and depression and repression and oppression.  To binary positions never to meet and compromise, to exist in complementary ways.  To blind faith in oneself above all others.

Love. I cannot blame all those who look a certain way for the actions of such a small group of fanatical extremists.  I will not.  I should not.  I hope not.

Love. It is difficult to love those who hate so strongly, whose aim is to maim and kill and hurt. The target is not just those who are not the same as them, it is also those who are the same as them but who choose to stand up for life and liberty and compromise and co-existence.  They may have commonalities but the heart, the truth of the person is so far removed from the fanaticist the fearmongers have more in common.

Love. It is not weakness. It is strength.  It is hope.  It is the way forward. Love for the survivors, the families of those who are gone, the people affected, no matter where they are from or who they are or seen to be.

Love for people.  Love for the future.  Love is the one thing I cling to, however hard it may be some time. Teach and enact respect, acceptance, care.  Recognise and understand difference, even when we are not shown the same in return.  Especially then.  Love when it is hard, as well as when it is easy.

The alternative is to hate, and that is the pathway the terrorists take.  I will not give them the satisfaction. I will love them too, and pity them for the pain they create and the pain they live in.  At least, I will eventually.  Probably.   I will try.

Because hate is the most damaging of all. My victory will be love. For all. Including you.

Mandela love not hate

 

 

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